In the final days of the Trump administration, the US government announced that it would stop endangered species protections for the American gray wolf. The move angered conservationists who said it was too soon. The gray wolf has required special protection for 45 years after losing its natural habitat and being hunted by farmers. At one point, they were only a few thousand of them.
The controversy around this also illustrated the devastating effects of deforestation on wild animals around the world.1
Deforestation and its effect on animal habitats
The number of wild animals on Earth has reduced by over two-thirds over the last 50 years, according to the Living Planet Report 2020. Deforestation, driven by a desire to use the land for agriculture, was the biggest cause of falling animal populations, the WWF and Zoological Society of London found.2
Their findings mirrored that of the UN too. One million animal and plant species are under threat of extinction, the UN found in 2019. “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health, and quality of life worldwide”, said Sir Robert Watson, who chaired the investigation.3
Deforestation effects on wolves in the US
An estimated two million wolves once roamed North America. But by the 1960s, with their habitats largely destroyed, their numbers fell so low that they had to be protected by the Endangered Species Act. They had been exterminated from all the contiguous United States, except parts of Michigan and Minnesota.
But the impact wasn’t just felt on wolves. It benefited species that wolves eat, including songbirds, foxes, and beavers.4
What can be done to protect our animals from the effects of deforestation?
Without forests and wild animals, it would be a miracle if humans even survive as a species. Yet, humans are destroying both at an alarming rate.
To protect wild animals, we must protect their habitat – forests. To protect forests, we must not only push our government but our friends and family too. We need a cultural shift to promote conservation, protect nature and save wildlife. You can donate to the relevant organizations, in addition to doing your bit at home. You can eat less meat or become a vegetarian. This is not only healthier for you, but it puts less pressure on forests and animals.5
- Milman, O. (2020). Trump administration ends gray wolf’s endangered species protections. The Guardian. [online] 29 Oct. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/29/gray-wolf-endangered-species-trump-administration.
- Falconer, R. (n.d.). “Catastrophic decline”: Wildlife populations have plunged 68% in 46 years. [online] Axios. Available at: https://www.axios.com/wwf-wildlife-populations-fall-68-percent-50-years-43cd7a12-11c8-4b6e-b602-baabb0578532.html [Accessed 5 May 2021].
- United Nations (2019). UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline “Unprecedented”; Species Extinction Rates “Accelerating” – United Nations Sustainable Development. [online] United Nations Sustainable Development. Available at: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/.
- Center for Biological Diversity. (2021). America’s Gray Wolves: A long Road to Recovery. [online] Available at: https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/gray_wolves/index.html.
- Milman, O. (2018). Why eating less meat is the best thing you can do for the planet in 2019. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/21/lifestyle-change-eat-less-meat-climate-change.